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Day of reckoning imminent for rural communities

Having enacted the Net Zero Carbon Act, put the ETS on steroids and opened up the floodgates on international purchases of farmland for forestry — the Government will close consultation of their draft emissions reduction plans today.

This consultation asks a number of questions, but chief amongst them being how exactly should we achieve Net Zero?

The questions as they relate to rural communities do not canvas whether or not planting trees should take place, but rather which trees, how many and where.

This is a question that will shape the landscape from Kaitaia to Bluff and everywhere in between, which means every kiwi should have their say, as the Government makes ever bigger commitments to our international peers and proports to lead the world on Climate Change.

Lead we most certainly will do, although not in the way that most people understand.

Having been recently the beneficiary of a zoom conference hosting Professor David Frame, lead author of chapter 6 of the latest IPCC report, I was confronted with a stark and quite shocking fact, which Mr Frame then went on to support with evidence using various graphs using FAIR modelling used in chapter 7 of the IPCC report.

This fact was that if New Zealand enacts it's current commitments to reducing GHG emissions, even if agriculture only achieves the lowest of its warming targets — as a nation we will reach warming neutral and then begin to have a cooling influence from the mid 2030's onward.

This is because the emissions profile of New Zealand consists in large part of methane, which is a flow gas, surviving only temporarily in the atmosphere.

Cuts of the magnitude being proposed by the Government will mean that these gasses are not replaced in the atmosphere and as a result — their influence in maintaining current temperatures is reversed, which leads to atmospheric cooling even while CO2 emissions continue from other sources.

Few people are aware of this fact because we currently measure GHG's in terms of equivalised mass units — not in terms of their warming impact.

The IPCC goals are warming goals, however, and the reason we are planting the country in trees and taxing fossil fuels is purported to be in an effort to reduce warming, however, the Government have thus far shown little inclination to provide goals in warming terms.

This means that by continuing on the current trajectory New Zealand will inadvertently lead the world in attainting warming neutrality and then effective cooling — decades earlier than most other nations, while completely forgoing the credit for achieving this.

In fact, our counterparts in other industrialised countries will continue to heat the climate in real terms — largely rendering our efforts futile.

It's time that the community asked for goals that reflect our unique emissions profile — goals that recognise that we could cool the climate before any other developed country if this were only acknowledged using the science which is already being wielded by our leading climate scientists and the IPCC — and turn this acrimonious topic into a unifying one.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and many others have highlighted the inequity of using rural communities as carbon sinks, of the risks and costs that are socialised when Governments manipulate the demand for commodities, land or resources.

The Climate Commission believes that limits are needed on the indiscriminate planting of farmland, to ensure that policies provide for healthy communities and better long-term outcomes for generations to come.

The information provided above would suggest that we do have time to shape these policies better and as a small exporting nation at the bottom of the world, our future depends on it.

• Submissions should be sent to climateconsultation2021@mfe.govt.nz

Global warming/pollution concept image. Elements of this image furnished by Nasa